The federal government has pledged nearly $2 million to the creation of two cybersecurity centres at major Australia universities to help address the “critical skills shortage” in the industry.

The University of Melbourne and Edith Cowan University will be splitting $1.91 million in government funding over four years to each launch Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence (ACCSE).

Dan Tehan, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security, said these centres will help address the significant skills gap in the local cybersecurity industry.

“The ACCSE will better prepare Australians for careers in cybersecurity and help Australian industries by providing training and research to bolster our capability and keep the digital economy strong,” Tehan said.

“Encouraging a generation of Australian cybersecurity professionals is good for our cyber security, good for the economy and good for the young Australians who pursue careers in this area.”

The funding comes from the $230 million that the government committed towards its cybersecurity strategy in April last year, with one of its key initiatives centring on the “general skilling up for the government’s capabilities in the space”.

Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, said the centres will help to encourage more young Australians to take up studies and research in cybersecurity and eventually increase the number of local professionals in the field.

“Our ambition is to attract more of Australia’s best and brightest into this critically important area, regardless of their background,” Birmingham said.

“Graduates from the successful centres of excellence will be equipped with the best knowledge to meet the needs of cyber industry, business and government. What’s more, the centres will encourage the commercialisation of their cybersecurity research and benefit Australia’s small and medium sized industries.”

The government has placed major emphasis on cybersecurity in the last year, with the importance of the space emphasised by the recent WannaCry cyber attack around the world.

ACS President Anthony Wong said attacks like this demonstrate why an emphasis on cybersecurity talent is so important.

“Technology has delivered us incredible advances but also incredible vulnerabilities,” Wong said.

“This is not a wake up call. We’ve been there, seen it and done it before - there is nothing left to wake up to.”

According to Australia’s Digital Pulse 2017 report, released by the ACS, cyber crime is already the largest financial crime in Australia, with the average cost of an attack to local businesses increasing to $419,000.

But it appears that more education and awareness is needed, with the ACS’s report, Cybersecurity: Threats, Challenges, Opportunities last year finding that only six percent of corporate executives considering cybersecurity to be a critical issue.